Anxiety disorders have the potential to hinder an individual’s ability to effectively participate in work, education, and various other aspects of life. Fortunately, the promising news is that recovery is attainable with the appropriate therapeutic approach.
These anxiety disorders manifest in various forms, encompassing:
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Panic Disorder (inclusive of Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia)
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Specific Phobias
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder
- Trichotillomania or Dermatillomania (characterized by Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours)
- Anxiety disorders can be profoundly distressing and disabling, potentially resulting in the forfeiture of educational and occupational opportunities, along with challenges in familial and social relationships.
The Road to Recovery
Achieving recovery from anxiety disorders is undoubtedly feasible with the right treatment approach. Multiple therapeutic pathways can be explored to empower individuals to regain command over their lives. These strategies can be embarked upon autonomously through self-directed learning or in collaboration with skilled professionals. The array of options for management encompasses:
The maxim “knowledge is power” reverberates here, emphasising the critical role of comprehending anxiety. This includes gaining insight into the physiology underlying the ‘fight-or-flight’ response, a mechanism that is often inappropriately triggered by typically benign circumstances in individuals with anxiety disorders. Education serves as the cornerstone for reclaiming authority over one’s symptoms.
Anxiety often results in individuals becoming entangled in anxiety-inducing thoughts. Mindfulness guides individuals towards redirecting their focus to the present moment and disengaging from unhelpful thoughts. Mindfulness has gained increasing recognition for its potential benefits in addressing various issues. Resources are readily available to support the development of a mindfulness practice.
Constant anxiety can make relaxation a challenging feat. Learning how to release muscle tension can be an invaluable strategy. Relaxation techniques encompass:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Abdominal breathing
- Isometric relaxation exercises
- Correct Breathing Techniques
Hyperventilation, often triggered by anxiety, elevates oxygen levels while decreasing carbon dioxide levels in the bloodstream. Carbon dioxide plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s response to anxiety and panic. Learning to breathe from the diaphragm, rather than the chest, can help prevent hyperventilation. Observing the abdomen expand while inhaling is indicative of correct diaphragmatic breathing. This approach also aids in slowing one’s breath when feeling anxious. If abdominal breathing poses a challenge, various alternative breathing techniques can be explored.
Cognitive therapy targets thought patterns and beliefs linked to anxiety, helping individuals identify and challenge the roots of their anxiety. For instance, someone with social phobia may intensify their anxiety through negative thoughts, such as “Everyone thinks I’m boring.” The basis of cognitive therapy is the idea that beliefs lead to thoughts, which, in turn, trigger emotions and behaviours. Monitoring self-talk, challenging unhelpful fears and beliefs, and testing the reality of negative thoughts are key cognitive therapy strategies.
Exposure therapy, a central component of behaviour therapy, involves intentionally confronting one’s fears to desensitise themselves. Exposure allows individuals to reframe the danger or fear associated with a given situation or trigger. The steps in exposure therapy include:
- Ranking fears in order of least to most threatening.
- Beginning with a less intimidating fear.
- Mentally considering the feared situation, imagining its occurrence, and scrutinising related fears.
- Devising a plan comprising incremental steps, like gradually reducing the distance from the feared situation or extending the time spent in that situation.
- Resisting the urge to leave, utilising relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and coping statements to manage anxiety.
- Acknowledging that nothing adverse transpired.
- Repeatedly exposing oneself to build confidence in their coping abilities.
- Eventually addressing other feared situations using the same method.
Certain dietary components can influence anxiety. Magnesium aids in muscle relaxation, and a deficiency in this mineral can contribute to anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Additionally, inadequate intake of vitamin B and calcium can exacerbate anxiety symptoms. Including whole grains, leafy greens, and low-fat dairy products in your daily diet is advisable.
Conversely, substances such as nicotine, caffeine, and stimulants (containing caffeine) stimulate the release of adrenaline, a primary stress chemical, and should be minimised. Reducing salt and artificial additives is also recommended in favour of fresh, unprocessed foods whenever possible.
The ‘fight-or-flight’ response underpins many physical anxiety symptoms by flooding the body with adrenaline and other stress chemicals. Physical activity can help burn off these stress chemicals and promote relaxation, making exercise an effective strategy for managing anxiety. Engaging in physical activity three to four times weekly while varying the activities can be highly beneficial.
Learning to be Assertive
Being assertive entails effectively communicating needs, wants, feelings, beliefs, and opinions to others in a direct and honest manner without causing intentional harm. Those with anxiety disorders may struggle with assertiveness due to fear of conflict or a belief that they lack the right to express themselves. However, passivity in interpersonal interactions can undermine self-confidence and perpetuate anxiety. Learning to be assertive is essential for fostering self-esteem.
Low self-esteem often plagues individuals with anxiety disorders. Feelings of worthlessness can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to passive interactions, fear of harsh judgment, and social isolation. These self-esteem issues can be attributed to the impact of the anxiety disorder on various aspects of life, including:
- Social isolation
- Feelings of shame and guilt
- Depressive mood
- Impairment in school, work, or social functioning
- Fortunately, measures can be taken to explore and enhance self-esteem, potentially involving community support organisations and counselling.
Structured Problem Solving
People with anxiety disorders may fall into patterns of excessive worrying without actively addressing the underlying problems. Learning how to dissect a problem into its components and formulate an action plan can be an invaluable skill for managing generalised anxiety and depression. This approach, known as structured problem solving, offers a practical strategy.
Medication should be viewed as a short-term solution rather than a definitive answer to anxiety disorders. Research studies have shown that psychological therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, are significantly more effective than medications for long-term management. While medication may be prescribed temporarily to alleviate symptoms, other treatment approaches should be explored concurrently.
Support Groups and Education
Support groups provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals with anxiety to connect and offer and receive assistance. These groups also serve as valuable sources of education, allowing participants to deepen their understanding of anxiety and cultivate supportive social networks.
How White River Manor Can Help
We offer our guests individualised programs and luxury individual care at White River Manor. In collaboration with the client, our team of highly qualified therapists, medical professionals, and dependency specialists work to design a program to restore balance and well-being in our guests’ lives.
If you’d like to talk to us about treatment options and how we can help you recover, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our intake team.